Get a job at my size Fat chance!
After 160 interviews but not one job offer, Louisa says it's not her CV that’s letting her down – it's her curves
22:56 GMT, 2 May 2012
Big battle: Louisa says she is jobless because of her size
Recently, I went for an interview with a top City law firm. It was for a position very similar to jobs I’d done in the past, meaning I was well qualified for the role — and excited at the opportunity it presented.
I was seen by a slender, pretty girl from the human resources department. She spoke to me for about ten minutes, during which time she didn’t ask a single question about my skills or experience. In fact, she barely even asked my name.
When she told me I wouldn’t be getting a second interview, I asked why. ‘The partners wouldn’t like you,’ she told me.
Wouldn’t like me or wouldn’t like the way I looked I didn’t have to ask — I already knew the answer. For despite my decades of experience and glowing references, there was one box that I didn’t tick — the ‘thin’ box.
Since I lost my job in 2010, my size 22 shape has overshadowed every effort I’ve made to get a new position. There are plenty of jobs suitable for me and I’ve applied for 350 posts, securing interviews for around half of them. But I haven’t been offered a single one.
Sadly, while I look great on paper, it seems employers don’t think I’m acceptable in the flesh.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to read new research by the University of Manchester, which found fat women are far less likely to be selected for a job than their slimmer rivals.
Until recently, I was a size 12-14 and had never had a problem getting a job. I’ve worked solidly since I left school at 18, starting as a secretary in a City law firm before getting a degree and securing a plum job in business development at the same company.
Within a few years, I’d joined accountancy giant Deloitte & Touche as a senior manager. I was earning a great salary and when I walked into a meeting people sat up and took notice.
In 2001, I was headhunted to join another well respected accountancy firm before having my son Alex in 2004. While he was young, I set up my own consultancy in my North London home advising a range of top City firms.
Then, when he started nursery school, I accepted a contract to work for the Identity and Passport Office on a six-figure salary. I spent my days advising government ministers and developing high-level business strategies. I loved my job and I was good at it.
'As soon as I walk into an interview, I
often sense the disappointment. You
can just feel everyone making assumptions about you because of your
Then the squeeze on public sector spending began and in 2010, when I was 46, my contract wasn’t renewed.
But I wasn’t that worried. The longest I had ever been out of work before was a month and that was during the depths of the recession in the Eighties.
I thought I would walk into a new job. But there was one thing I hadn’t reckoned on.
Until 2008, I had always been a curvy size 12-14. But then my beloved grandmother died after a long and harrowing battle with dementia.
She’d been like a mother to me and I was devastated. I began to comfort eat and over the next couple of years I put on around six stone, ballooning to a huge size 22.
I hated being so fat, but I didn’t realise potential employers would hate it even more than me. It’s the only thing that’s changed about me since the last time I applied for jobs, so I can only conclude this has to be the reason for all those rejections.
Perfect candidate on paper: But Louisa has yet to find a job despite 160 interviews
As soon as I walk into an interview, I often sense the disappointment. When a beautiful woman enters a room, everyone looks at her with admiration. When a fat woman walks in, you can just feel everyone making assumptions about you because of your size.
When you are a normal size, people will listen to what you say and make a judgment about your abilities based on your answers. When you are fat, they assume you must be stupid and lazy, because only a stupid, lazy person would allow themselves to get so big.
After the first 20 rejections, which were for a whole range of reasons — from being over- qualified to lacking experience or not having the right experience, I went to a career coach to find out what I was doing wrong. After meeting me she was as shocked as I was that I couldn’t find a job.
She said my CV was fantastic, I have a great personality and interviewed well. What she couldn’t say was that the only thing that was wrong with me was my size, but after seeing her I knew this was the only reason left to explain why I kept getting turned down.
'Fat people are figures of fun at best or the target of people’s disgust at worst'
It is just so soul-destroying. I am a bright, successful, experienced, professional woman — but I am also fat and that seems to trump all the positive things about me.
No one can see how much I have to offer; all they can see is that I don’t fit the sharp-suited, slick City career woman stereotype. Even when I went for jobs that were far beneath my capabilities, I didn’t do any better. Recently, my sister recommended me for a job at a local small business with which she has connections.
They said that if I was anything like her then they’d love to meet me. We are similar, but she is a size ten. After we all met they decided not to interview me — and I can only blame my size once again.
It’s not just at job interviews that people treat me differently. After being out of work for so long, I was forced to sell my house last year and move to a new area.
Size matters: Louisa said she never had a problem getting a job in her youth when she was slimmer
For the first term that my son was at his new school I stood on my own in the playground at every morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up. Not one of the other mums spoke to me.
If I had been my old, confident, size 14 self I would have chatted to them, but I was sure that just like all those potential employers they were judging me because of my size and I was too ashamed to strike up a conversation myself.
The bias against fat people is widespread and casually cruel — but utterly accepted by society.
I have noticed that since I gained weight I’m ignored in shops and waiters serve me last. But I don’t even like to eat in public anymore as I am sure that everyone is looking at me thinking: ‘Why is that fat woman eating’
I know it isn’t just my imagination: fat people are figures of fun at best or the target of people’s disgust at worst. The new research just confirms all my fears — people really are prejudiced against size.
My marriage hasn’t escaped the curse of my weight either. While my husband Richard, a 44- year-old sales manager, reassures me all the time that he feels the same way about me, I just don’t believe him.
I feel so bad about myself I can’t believe he still loves me as much. He is always telling me to have more confidence in myself, but after being turned down by so many employers that is becoming increasingly hard.
So after more than 18 months of constant rejections, I decided that there was only one way I was ever going to get another job, and that was by slimming back down to a normal size again.
In January, I began to eat more healthily and started to run and go to a local exercise class. So far I have lost over a stone.
When I’ve finished and fit into my old work suits once again, I’ll be exactly the same person I am now — same experience, same personality. But the discrimination against fat women out there is so extreme that I have to lose weight. It’s the only chance I have to ever work again.